When you think of circus sideshows, you might think of relentless businessmen taking advantage of unfortunate disabled people for profit. While this did certainly happen, the exploitation was likely much less common than you might think.
Sideshows provided a way for so-called “freaks” to make a living and succeed in a society that afforded them very few options. Without the institution of sideshows, the story of Sam Alexander, or the “man with two faces,” would have been tragic…
As a young man in Chicago, Sam Alexander was on track to become a well-respected stage actor. He had recently been promoted at the Shubert Theatre when disaster struck.
Alexander”s face was permanently disfigured by the accident.
But now Alexander had to figure out how he was going to earn a living with his appearance.
By the mid 1960s, Alexander was in high demand for sideshows all over the country. He even went on to found his own traveling show.
Despite his appearance being his livelihood, Alexander continued working to restore his damaged face.
(via: The Human Marvels)
The human spirit is a tough thing to break, and the story of Sam Alexander was living proof. Yes, what happened to him was tragic. But instead of wallowing in his misfortune, he made the best of what he had and prospered. I think we can all learn something from him.